by G.L. Morrison
Along this hallway you will see
a disparate collection, function and history
of masks, masking, maskery.
The sacred beside the profane.
Second faces of warriors and shamans.
Kachina dancers. Venetian Masquerade.
A snorkel. A fireman’s SCBA. A Halloween
ninja turtle, a bird goddess,
the plague doctor, Jesse James’ bandana,
the mardi gras party-goer (revelling
in Fat Tuesday’s excesses before
the austerity of Lent), mickey mouse,
heads of high school mascots, the surgeon’s blue,
a gas mask from WWI, a balaclava.
A welder’s face shield, a soldier’s.
The hangman’s hood, the clansman’s.
A ski mask. A death mask.
A burka. A bridal veil.
The Guy Fawkes. The Casanova.
The Red Masque of Death.
The ball gag gimp. Rubber heads
of presidents and Hollywood kings.
Ahead is an alcove
that is mask-free. Its walls flanked
by mirrors to show you the masks
you wore in here unwittingly:
flirt, scold, teacher, liar, comforter,
punisher, sinner, savior. Room
enough for all expressions. Unmask
yourself. See what you see.
To the left, there is a wall
with over a hundred face masks
to represent the diversity of choices
and messaging available during
the global pandemic of 2019:
Black Lives Matter, If You Can Read
This You’re Too Close.
To the right is a empty wall
to represent the masks not worn
by freedom fighters in the war
against common sense
and communal health guidelines.
Note at the bottom, a digital display
ticks like seconds on a clock
ticking like a bomb
ticker tape like dollars lost
like a parade for dead patriots.
Too fast to read the names
of any individual. But no matter.
Individualism isn’t meant
for individuals. Names aren’t important.
It’s the principle that counts.
G.L. Morrison is a professional writer, an amateur grandmother, and a regional organizer for the Communist Party USA. Queer and disabled, she lives at the intersection of many communities and identities where she tends honey-filled hives of sweet poets, artists, and activists. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC. Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.